I’ve never really been a fan of Mondays (or for that matter of bands from Manchester), but some Mondays are undeniably better than others.
PH first reviewed the XFR in left-hand-drive guise back in March, when our contributor Adam Towler left us in no doubt he felt the new Jaguar had cracked it – describing the 503bhp, 5.0-litre supercharged machine as ‘the best super-saloon all-rounder there is’. He clearly wasn’t alone, as similar rave reviews have piled up in the Jaguar scrap book, so it’s been a tantalising few months' wait to get our hands on the new car here on UK soil.
Ease the selector into reverse to back out of your parking space, and the rear view monitor reveals a fantastically clear picture of the scenery behind you – even at night – while a pair of curving yellow lines predict the vehicle’s path on any given steering angle. It may not be world-beating technology, but I still can’t get enough of systems like this that allow you to ‘point and shoot’ parking spaces with barely a second thought! Adaptive Cruise Control is another incredibly useful gadget that still hasn’t outplayed its novelty value, while features like the touch sensitive interior lights and glovebox catch all help to reinforce the sense that the XFR is a mightily clever box of tricks.
The car gets off to a fine start as the standard XF body is already one of the stiffest in the business, which Jaguar says is the key to the XFR’s superb ride and handling. On top of this rigid platform, two new developments have been employed – Adaptive Dynamics which is a sophisticated active damping system that adjusts settings to road conditions and driving style, and Active Differential Control which is a torque-vectoring axle that actively varies torque between the rear wheels to maximise traction.
And thrust can be unleashed in a big, big way, thanks to the new V8 that has some pretty impressive technical credentials. The engine features a stiff aluminium block with cast iron liners and cross-bolted main bearing caps. The aluminium heads have four valves per cylinder, and Jaguar claims an industry first for its centrally mounted multi-hole fuel injection system. The compression ratio is up to 9.5:1 from the old supercharged 4.2-litre V8. The inlet cam has Camshaft Profile Switching that gives increased valve lift when required, and there’s a variable inlet manifold to help optimise torque across the rev range. The Roots-type twin-vortex blower (apparently the same unit that’s fitted to the Corvette ZR1) feeds air through a pair of intercoolers, and a ‘high helix’ rotor design has all but eliminated the traditional supercharger whine, says Jaguar. In fact, so refined is the new V8 that acoustic trickery has been employed to make sure a decent soundtrack is relayed to the driver. An acoustic filter tuned to ‘tenor C’ ducts the engine’s V8 beat into the cabin, but only when the car is revving hard – and the result is an engine note that howls deliciously like a (somewhat muted) NASCAR racer when you want some fun and games.
My first couple of drives in the XFR were long-ish motorway commutes, during which the Jaguar’s supple damping and general sense of refined quietude belied the car’s capacity to beat up the M5 and the ‘vorsprung durch RS’ brigade. Yet even with the damping in its ‘normal’ setting, you’ll need to be travelling very fast indeed over uneven tarmac before the car’s near two-tonne mass will begin to show any sign at all of overwhelming the active damping system’s firm grip on body control. Select Dynamic Mode, however, and, as well as firming up and further flattening the ride, the electronics are programmed to sharpen up throttle response, and modify the stability and transmission parameters to further stretch the car’s fearsome performance envelope.
In fact the only impediment to progress I found was that the ‘manual override’ paddle-shifters are too small and occasionally get lost behind the wheel - for instance as you’re getting on the power, unwinding lock and looking for the next ratio when a corner opens out ahead. But with gearbox as clever as the XFR’s, there’s not much call for the manual option anyway.
For the full-on XFR effect, I think that selecting Dynamic Mode then sticking the autobox selector into ‘S’ instead of D is the most rewarding option on the road. (You can kill the DSC for controllable power-on oversteer, but such antics are probably best left to the track at XFR ‘drift’ speeds.)
If you’re tempted to unleash this performance – and it’s so readily accessible that you surely will be - just keep an eye on the fuel gauge. The XFR has prodigious thirst for unleaded when Sport mode is engaged, and probably the rest of the time as well.
But while the XFR isn’t perhaps the most politically correct car for these straitened times, it’s certainly indecently rewarding to drive. If your regular commute includes the school run, for instance, I doubt if there’s currently a better way to spend £60k to spice up Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays…